starting April 2, 2020
Nepal has joined China in closing the spring climbing season on all mountains, including on Everest citing Covid-19 aka the Coronavirus. Nepali officials also decided to temporarily stop issuing on-arrival tourist visas to all countries through the end of April. Previously it only applied to eight countries with a large number of virus cases.
According to this article in the Kathmandu Post, the leading Nepali operator, Seven Summits Treks had 60 clients signed up but six canceled just this week. Seven Summit Treks, the largest expedition operator in Nepal, said that 60 climbers have already registered with them to climb Everest. But on Thursday, six climbers canceled their plans.
This is the official notice:
There may still be some people on Everest however as the Tibetan Mountaineering Association in a statement in Xinhau News noted that:
China is to suspend foreign expeditions on the north side of Mt. Qomolangma during the spring climbing season of 2020 due to the global spread of COVID-19, the Tibet Mountaineering Association (TMA) confirmed on Thursday.
They used the word “foreign” and not “all”, but most operators I spoke with felt it was all-inclusive. The TMA said 20 expeditions had applied for Everest climbing permits.
UPDATE: Mingma Sherpa tells me an 18 member Chinese team will be on Everest this spring.
The Icefall Doctors were already on their way to Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side to begin fixing the route. Perhaps the silver lining is that the giant hanging serac over the Icefall might release between now and the next expedition.
Overall, these cancellations could hurt some of the fragile operators because canceling so close to the start of the season, only weeks away, they had already spent money on items like oxygen, food, gear, and other supplies and already shipped a lot to Kathmandu. These are sunk costs. Most operators have already told their clients their fees can apply to 2021.
For Nepal, this is a significant financial blow. The climbing and trekking season brings in millions to the government for climbing permits and the local economy from hotels, restaurants, and the guiding industry of guides, and porters, and the transportation network of taxis, airlines, and helicopters. The Nepal government brought in $4 million from Everest permits last year. On the Tibet side, the impact is less but still significant for those serving the expeditions.
And the Sherpas, they will suffer probably the most. For many, Everest represents the best opportunity to earn a living. Some can make up to $10,000 over April and May. Most earn about half that much.
Hopefully, the virus will be under control by Autumn and trekking and climbing can resume.
Memories are Everything